Race Matters

Sunday, February 2, 2020
First Aired: 
Sunday, October 29, 2017

What Is It

Started in the wake of George Zimmerman's 2013 acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has become a powerful campaign demanding redress for the mistreatment of African-Americans by law enforcement in the United States. But it has also inspired deep antipathy from those who claim it overemphasizes racial issues. So how much does – and should – race matter? Does #BlackLivesMatter speak for all black people? How should we respond to counter-movements like #AllLivesMatter? Ken and Debra discuss matters with Chris Lebron from Johns Hopkins University, author of The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea.

Listening Notes

Debra and Ken begin by debating the significance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the potential implications of its emphasis on race. Debra argues that racial inequality in the justice system is a disaster for everyone, and the focus should be on uniting people against a common cause rather than pitting racial groups against each other. Ken responds by arguing that such a view, encapsulated by the All Lives Matter countermovement, is problematic because it implies the existence of color-blind solutions to problems that are inherently colored by race. The Black Lives Matter movement is not about excluding others, he says — rather, it is about finally including black people in the notion of the collective “we.”

The hosts are joined by Chris Lebron, author of The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea. Debra poses the question of whether in order to make progress on the issues that the black community faces, it might be more effective to frame them in a more inclusive way. She gives the example of poverty as an issue that, while genuinely impacting black people, may best be dealt with through universal entitlement programs, low-cost housing, and better schools for everyone. Chris disagrees, arguing that the fundamental problem with race in this country has to do with value: black people are seen as worth less. When programs and policies that provide public goods on a more equitable basis are implemented, this value judgment finds its way back into these programs and policies, and black people are again edged out of their benefits. 

In the final segment, the hosts ask Chris how we can begin to move forward as a nation. They bring up the challenge of galvanizing support from outside the black community in order to grow the movement against racial injustice. Chris shares one potential method of framing the issue that might provoke change, which is to convey to white Americans the notion that to perpetuate racial inequity is actually to shortchange their own humanity. He then closes by pointing out the recent surge in racial resentment that has taken place, suggesting that the national conversation be directed from white privilege to white rage.

  • Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 6:11) → Lisa Veale takes a closer look at the activism that has occurred in the wake of police shootings of black individuals, such as Anthony Lamar Smith and Michael Brown. She also examines some of the critiques of the Black Lives Matter movement that come from its sympathizers, concluding that the movement’s blatantly racial message both alienates some and and motivates others.
  • Conundrum: A former Peace Corps volunteer wonders whether her presence did more harm than good by raising expectations that might not be met.



Comments (13)

simka321's picture


Sunday, October 29, 2017 -- 11:41 AM

Black lives

Why does the class question take priority over the race question? Simple. If those who say that "black lives matter" don't actually matter to those who determine what matters, then does what those who say "black lives matter" really matter?

RepoMan05's picture


Sunday, September 22, 2019 -- 6:42 PM

Thats just a very long way of

Thats just a very long way of saying the BLACK lives matter movement is a bunch of racists. "BLACK lives matter" it's self evident. Why beat around the bush? Philosophical opinions dont need to be convincing. That's the realm of politics.

RepoMan05's picture


Sunday, September 22, 2019 -- 6:17 PM

The plain fact is, the whole

The plain fact is, the whole judicial system, not just cops, are just promotion point whores. They're the exact same people you'd be if you had their job.

If zimmerman did in the state of Florida vs George Zimmerman(in the death of Trayvon Martin) what kelly did in the state of Wisconsin vs Daniel Kelly(in the death of Austin Bodahl) it wouldnt have cost zimmerman his whole life. Kelly had a public defender.

When you're in a self defense case, "DONT TALK TO THE COPS!" Let your lawyer do his job, make it as easy as you can for your lawyer. They're not going to spend their own lives on you coming up with every last counter to all the ways the prosecutor is going to twist every last word you said.

Zimmerman wouldn't have even been charged.

Next, "race" is an equivocation fallacy created by the British for turning family into competition to justify nepotism and slippery slope for aristocracy. Everyone who uses the word race, is a racist. That means you op.

They knew you'd all get trapped in their little machination. British loyalists have been playing you all against eachother for the whole time america existed. They've been doing it for a very long time. You all get trapped in codification illusions and manipulated like muppets.

Lets see if you can grasp this.

In english, something you drink from is a cup, right? In spanish, something you drink from is a taza. So which is it? Is it a cup or a taza? Is it both? Or is it the real fact that it's neither and may just as well be an Aschenbecher?

Words do not exist. It is only our collective agreement that they have any meaning at all.

Race is not a real word. It is a fallacy.

Even "phenotypical traits" is a fallacy of averages. Every word in every dictionary is an argumentum ad populum fallacy reguardless of any other fallacy they are.

Subjectivity can never perfecly reflect Objectivity.

RepoMan05's picture


Tuesday, September 24, 2019 -- 6:24 PM

So, yeah. "Race" has

So, yeah. "Race" has absolutley no matter to it at all. "Race" is completely incorporeal.

Theres no starting gun and no finish line.

It's just 7 billion -1 idiot's who're really damn bored playing a self-serving aristocrat's game that was never there in the first place.

RepoMan05's picture


Saturday, October 19, 2019 -- 3:01 PM

Race only matters to

Race only matters to habitually fallacious dixiecrats.

RepoMan05's picture


Monday, November 18, 2019 -- 7:46 PM

If anyone remembers the first

If anyone remembers the first week of the Zimmerman debacle you'll remember the all the black and white rhetoric right from at the onset of the case. "Whites" everywhere were forced to point out Zimmerman is Hispanic, not "white." racism isn't going to end if "white" is the only "racial" group expected to have a conscience or intellectual consistency.

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Tuesday, December 31, 2019 -- 7:19 AM

RM5 is gone. R.I.P.

RM5 is gone. R.I.P.

If he comes back I will rejoinder him. He goes too far, as is his wont with Zimmerman. Wonk Robert you thonk wrong. That is perhaps an untenable sentence... but ghosts can haunt as long as they don't howl.

The backlist of Philosophy Talk has the potential of life giving force. I hope someone hears the forest fall.

rlaggren's picture


Tuesday, February 4, 2020 -- 1:26 PM

> Black LIves......Respect

> Black LIves......Respect

USA is a go-get-rich country. That's our national religion, not Christianity. A By-GawdDamn-Getting-MINE country. We are hyper businessmen. What do you think equals respect in such a culture? Do you doubt that the Silicon Valley venture capitalists would dash to do business with Purple-Men-from-Mars provided it was a safe investment with huge returns?

If you want to "get respect" from a certain group of people, then you either destroy them, buy them or beat them at their own game. Which of these do people who identify themselves by their skin color (people of color, as well as rednecks and crackers etc) want to do?

Or _do_ they want to fight in that arena? Because one becomes and is shaped by his adversary. Who wants to become a bigger better Trump? Actually, I suspect a lot of people... Including a lot of Progressives, just so they can "save the world".

Power corrupts. And blinds. And lots of other side affects. It's an unavoidable occupational hazard. I'm sure most people would be happy to replace those "at the top" and put their own foot on the necks of the losers. It's the righteous thing to do, right? Bury those evil doers!

You probably get my drift: Face up to realities of power. Evolution and Darwin. The Black Panthers had the basic premise exactly right - nobody notices you until you can make it matter to _them_. They used in-your-face pseudo warfare - shock tactics, guns. MLK used large masses of people he moved to expose the practices of power and hit them politically. Power.

But the Bible says (more or less) "trust God, not the Egyptians with their horses and chariots". So if you believe in God (or some such) maybe you don't want to run and suck up to power? But that's a little scary, right? Chancy?

Oh well, life is hard. Gotta make these choices...


Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, February 14, 2020 -- 9:04 AM

This will be my last comment

This will be my last comment on this painful topic. I worked in the equal opportunity profession for almost thirty years and saw more than anyone should have had to. Some may be offended by this. Others may see something else. I am a pragmatist:

For as long as black people assert, contend and demand they are owed a dept that can never be repaid, there will never be racial harmony. Such demand will always be a barrier.The man with a 'chip on his shoulder' wants nothing so dearly as that someone will knock it off. Retribution is akin to guilt. They are both gifts that keep on giving, stoking hatred and suspicion. It is astounding to me that virtually no one acknowledges this side of the issue. And that any who are courageous enough to do so are condemned and ostracized by all. If no one is willing to forgive and move forward, we are all mired in the ocean of infinity: no sail, no oars, no anchor and a lot more bloodshed...

RepoMan05's picture


Wednesday, April 22, 2020 -- 6:02 PM

Some depts just cant be

Some debts just cant be repaid. Like everyone here who owes my family tree a dept for their service in war for this nation. I would not say black people are not owed a debt. Almost all of them have family trees in america that predate most of you more recent immigrants. What would their familial service be considered if not that of a veteran?

RepoMan05's picture


Wednesday, April 22, 2020 -- 6:07 PM

Why is it that only "bad"

Why is it that only "bad" debts should be remembered and not "good" debts? Yeah we owe black people for their slave history, but they also owe us for fighting for our lives to earn them the right to say so and own their own property etc. Good things need to be remembered also.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, June 13, 2021 -- 5:21 PM

Today, I watched an episode

Today, I watched an episode of the CBS news magazine, 60 Minutes. Once again, someone is either cancelling culture or attempting to revise history.. The program segment dealt with slavery. A slave ship that came to Alabama in the 1800s, and was burned/scuttled to hide its' purpose/mission. As I have commented, on the Black Lives Matter post herein, this dodges reality. Which reality? The one that existed in the 1700s. The reality that founding fathers held slaves. Washington and Jefferson among them. Now, I don't mind honest mistakes. Whatever that means. Dan Dennett has declared we need to make mistakes. He has not clarified whether those need be honest or no. I don't know him, so I can't ask. Anyway, as far as I can see, you cannot have it both ways. Cancellation and revisionism seem to argue otherwise. Uh. Bullshit. Read Frankfurt if you doubt this.
Couple these ideas with what I have left on the other post mentioned. It is all connected. Has been since sometime after 1612. Things start early. And not always where we assume or are taught...

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, August 5, 2021 -- 10:14 AM

This is an afterthought I had

This is an afterthought I had hoped to elide. But, today, it came back to haunt my consciousness. Over the last thirty or more years, I have marvelled over the evolution of childrens' names. I sorta understand why black parents choose unique names for their kids. Unique equals special and/or extraordinary. Lakesha spells better than, say, Lucretia. LaVerne is more or exotic than Vernon. Today, though, I drew an exasperated breath. The child was named Tywisha. I just could not get there. The thought occurred to me, concerning this young lady's potential grade school trials. I can imagine her embarrassment when some wise-cracking schoolmate pipes out: ' Ty wish I had a better name'. School kids are cruel---quick to pounce on differences---whether those are special, or not. Come on now, parents. Think, before you give your kids creative handles. I have three grandsons whose names I shall not divulge. Their names were intended to set them apart from the Bobs, Toms, and Jacks of the world. They will be set apart all right. But, maybe not in such a good way.